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Stronger Links Between Schools and Child Care Sought

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Child-care programs must develop "strong connections to the public schools'' to insure children get the foundation they need for learning, a policy statement from the Child Care Action Campaign concludes.

The statement was to be discussed this week at a conference in New York City co-sponsored by the advocacy group, which is based there, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The goal of the two groups is to forge links between the child-care and education communities to fashion a system of care that helps promote healthy development while providing supervision for the children of working parents.

"Until we establish the link between child care and education--both in policy and in program dimensions--we will continue to shortchange our children and their families,'' the statement says.

"We know that children cannot learn successfully unless the provisions that they have for their care and development and safety outside of school are effectively met,'' said Gordon Ambach, the executive director of the C.C.S.S.O.

The statement says 10 million children under age 6 need part- or full-day care, and that 13 million school-age children need "a safe and supportive place to be'' after school. But some 70 percent of the care now provided is "inadequate'' because services are fragmented, caregivers lack training, and licensing rules are too lax, it says.

Other Recommendations

In a plan to be debated at the conference, the child-advocacy group calls for a "universal system of centers'' for 3- to 5-year-olds incorporating "the best elements'' of Head Start and other model programs and providing health screening. It also cites the need to bolster infant and toddler care in a variety of settings and expand school-based programs for older children.

Other recommendations include:

  • Expanding the Dependent Care Tax Credit and making it refundable;
  • Urging the federal government to develop recommendations for state child-care licensing standards and provide states with incentives to meet those standards;
  • Upgrading training for providers and improving referral services for parents;
  • Designating an agency to coordinate child-care programs at the local level and a state cabinet-level agency to promote collaboration between child-care programs and schools;
  • Promoting public-private partnerships to invest in child care and backing work policies that help parents spend more time with children.

The recommendation that could provide the biggest "payload'' for students, Mr. Ambach said, is to extend the school day to provide before- and after-school programs.

The group urges schools to assess the need for "latchkey'' care and develop a plan, in collaboration with parents and community agencies, to offer such activities as tutoring and homework help, special-interest classes, and recreational activities.

More information about the conference can be obtained from the Child Care Action Campaign at (212) 239-0138.

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